The Complete Starfleet Library

From Star Trek to Star Wolf: David Gerrold's Worlds of Star Trek

The short version: in 1966, before "The Trouble With Tribbles," David Gerrold pitched a two-part Star Trek episode called "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," about a generation starship. A few years later he decided to turn the idea into an original science fiction novel, but found himself going in a very different direction. The end result was a book called Yesterday's Children and, a few more years later, a Star Trek novel based on the generation ship idea, The Galactic Whirlpool. In 1987, Gerrold wrote a Next Generation episode called "Blood and Fire" that was never produced. He recently published a novel based on that script but set in his own Star Wolf universe, which grew out of his novel Yesterday's Children. In other words, Blood and Fire is a novel based on an unproduced Star Trek episode set in a fictional universe that was originally created for the purpose of telling a story based on an unproduced Star Trek episode. That's an oversimplification, of course. The long version (with loads of spoilers) is below.

From "Tomorrow Was Yesterday" to The Galactic Whirlpool

Trouble With Tribbles cover In 1966, a young David Gerrold proposed a two-part Star Trek episode. Called "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," it was about the Enterprise encountering a generation ship, the Voyager. Over the centuries, as its pre-warp, slower than light engines propelled their ship across space, generations of the Voyager's crew came to forget that they were inside a spaceship. Mutiny and social turmoil led to the crew's descendents dividing into two groups, one living around the control room in relative comfort and high tech conveniences, the other in the lower decks around engineering living in relative squalor. Neither could take full control of the ship and its course, assuming they still remembered how to use their technology, and neither side knew that their world was heading for destruction, caught in the pull of a star. When members of the Enterprise crew boarded the Voyager, the people aboard, not knowing there was a world outside their ship, believed that they were members of the opposite faction. Complications ensued before Kirk and the gang eventually saved the day. (Gerrold wrote about this story and a few other rejected Star Trek pitches in his 1973 nonfiction book, "The Trouble With Tribbles".)

If it sounds like a familiar storyline, it is. Not only had something along those lines been done a number of times in science fiction novels, including Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky and Brian Aldiss's Non-Stop (a.k.a. Starship), something vaguely similar actually made it to Star Trek in the form of the episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." My own first exposure to the concept was probably the Dig Allen space adventure The Forgotten Star by Joseph Greene, and the next would have been the Canadian TV series The Starlost.

It was too big and expensive a story for television, Star Trek producer Gene Coon decided, but he was impressed by Gerrold's imagination and let him pitch a few more story ideas. One of them was "The Trouble With Tribbles." And that was the end of "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." For a little while, anyway.

A few years later, Gerrold tried to write an original science fiction novel based on the unused story. However, as he wrote, he found that he was writing a very different story, one about the crew of a warship trying to track an enemy spaceship that might not even exist. No generation ships involved at all. The book was published in 1972 as Yesterday's Children. In 1980, with a few additional chapters added to the end of the book, it was reprinted under the same title. About a decade later it was republished again as Starhunt. By that time Gerrold was revisiting and revising the fictional universe of that book for a new series he called Star Wolf.

Galactic Whirlpool cover In the meantime, though, something else had happened. Gerrold wrote a novel based on "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." This time, it was actually a Star Trek novel, and it was published as part of Bantam's Star Trek novel line in 1980.

The Galactic Whirlpool was something of a landmark Star Trek novel. It was the first original novel published by someone who had written for the TV series. It was certainly one of the best of the Bantam Star Trek novels, and longer than the average Trek novel then, too.

The story follows the plot as described above, with some relatively minor changes. Instead of being pulled by a star, the ship, now called the Wanderer, is being drawn to a more spectacular fate: a galactic whirlpool composed of spinning black holes.

The length of the book comes not from a more involved plot, or more action, but from many little expository breaks. For example, the story explaining why James T. Kirk has a habit of muttering "Tiberius" under his breath. How impulse drive works. Technobabble, Starfleet procedures, areas of the Enterprise, and more. In one of the book's longer chapters, the Enterprise librarian, Specks, gives a long history of the Wanderer: its beginning as an L5 colony, its political alienation from Earth, and ultimately its departure from the solar system as a generation ship. It's the sort of information that, in an episode, would have been provided by Spock. (Not that I have anything against the idea of a librarian aboard the Enterprise. I'm a librarian myself.) These expository lumps and digressions help disguise the fact that, even when you're halfway through the book, not much has actually happened yet.

(Incidentally, the idea of the ship being an L5 colony turned into a generation ship is similar to certain events in the much more recent Star Trek novel The Sundered, but it's an idea that's come up a number of times in science fiction. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, at times it seemed like everyone in the SF world was riffing off of Gerard O'Neill's The High Frontier, the nonfiction book that popularized the idea.)

The prose style is distinctive. There are short sentences for dramatic effect, lots of italics, and lots of exclamation points. At times it reads like a young adult novel. Characters are constantly quoting old sayings. There are a number of quotes from Gerrold's alter ego, Solomon Short, no relation to Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long. Some of the bits of exposition read very much like lectures.

Gerrold refers in passing to Arex and M'ress and also mentions an Admiral George La Forge. The real George La Forge was a Star Trek fan; The Next Generation's Geordi La Forge was also named after him. Kirk sends contact teams to the Wanderer, in a bit of foreshadowing of The Next Generation. Gerrold had made the point in his book The World of Star Trek years earlier that it made no sense to constantly put a ship's captain, its least expendable person, in danger. He expanded on the point in The Galactic Whirlpool.

A non-Trek reference in the book is the odd sound, "coeurl," made by holographic prowlers in the Wanderer's corridors. Coeurl is the title beast in A.E. van Vogt's short story "Black Destroyer." That story, now generally available as part of the book Voyage of the Space Beagle, features a starship whose multiracial crew explores space and has exciting adventures, decades before Star Trek was created.

The story ends with Kirk saying, "Set a course for deep space station K-7. I could use a rest --" Do I really need to mention that this leads into "The Trouble With Tribbles"?

From "Tomorrow Was Yesterday" to Yesterday's Children

Cover of 1980 edition Yesterday's Children turned out to be very different from "Tomorrow Was Yesterday." Where the episode would have been expensive to produce, with its huge spaceship, multiple ship interiors, large guest cast, and plenty of extras, Yesterday's Children would have been an inexpensive bottle show. Virtually all of the story, except for some quoted memos and backstory, takes place aboard a single starship, the United Systems Starship Roger Burlingame. There may be another ship out there, the bogie they're following, but we don't see it or learn much about it. It's an enemy ship but we never see the enemy. It isn't entirely clear whether they're humans or aliens. The book has a claustrophobic feel, like a World War II submarine warfare story.

Well into the novel, the already claustrophobic focus gets tighter yet, as we begin to see everything from the perspective of one character, Jon Korie, the ambitious and driven first officer. It turns out that he's been playing mind games with the crew using his "alpha brain matrix" and his knowledge of psychonomy. His games lead to some violence and near mutiny within the crew, who are already under stress from the long hunt for an enemy that may not exist and from the conflict between Korie and the ship's ineffectual captain. However, his strategy, uniting the crew against a common enemy (himself), pays off when the crew successfully find and destroy the enemy ship, which was real after all. (The 1972 version of the book ends with Korie destroyed by his obsessive hunt for the alien ship; the happier ending was added to the second edition.)

The universe of Yesterday's Children is antithetical to the Star Trek universe. It's socially regressive. Everyone on the ship is a human male. The presence of a character named Black Al by some of the crew suggests that pretty much everyone else is white, and probably American, judging by the names. On the other hand, there are definite echoes of Star Trek. Starships with USS designations; lasers and phasers; warp propulsion (though described in more than enough detail to be clearly very different from Star Trek's warp drive); military ranks; a ship's doctor who'll pour a fellow senior officer a drink and sympathize with him; a bridge and viewscreen that, as described, sound pretty similar to those of the Enterprise...

But in the long run, despite the SF elements, Yesterday's Children is a World War II story in space, like "Balance of Terror." An enemy that may not be there, tensions between officers and crew (albeit a unionized crew here), missiles that might as well be torpedoes, evasive maneuvers, battles that happen quickly between long periods of waiting; with the exception of the psychonomic angle, it's all pretty familiar.

As a novel, Yesterday's Children is a taut and suspenseful novel despite its familiar premise. It has a few too many lengthy epigrams, including some from Solomon Short again, but it's tighter than The Galactic Whirlpool. There are fewer expository lumps and digressions. The use of present tense narration may have been intended to increase the immediacy and tension of the story. The one unsolved mystery: wouldn't Yesterday's Children have been more appropriate for the generation ship story than this? It's not surprising that the book was eventually retitled Starhunt.

"Blood and Fire": The Episode

Script cover In 1987 David Gerrold was part of the team that created Star Trek: The Next Generation. More than twenty years after he pitched "Tomorrow Was Yesterday" to Gene Coon, he wrote a script called "Blood and Fire." Like "Tomorrow Was Yesterday," the episode was never filmed, and it took years before it appeared in novel form. Unlike that earlier occasion, this one was marked by rancour and hostility that have yet to fade despite the deaths of two of the people involved. Everyone agrees that Gerrold wrote a script that would fulfill Gene Roddenberry's promise to include gay characters in the new crew and serve as an AIDS allegory; everyone agrees that Roddenberry told Gerrold he loved the idea and the script then changed his mind. There's some vigourous debate about the details.

Gerrold's perspective is presented in the book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation by Bill Planer (a pseudonym for Edward Gross and/or Mark Altman). The book has a four-page summary of the script, two pages quoting Gerrold's remarks at a Star Trek convention, and a few pages summarizing "Blood and Ice," Herb Wright's attempt at a drastic rewrite. Gerrold is quoted as saying, "I turned it in, and went off on the first Star Trek cruise and got a telegram from Gene that said, 'Everyone loved your script. Have a great cruise.' When I got back I found that the script was not going to be shot. I was told that Gene's lawyer did not like the script and felt that this was not a good episode, and so on his advice, it seems, the script was canceled. That's what I was told by someone who was in a position to know. I don't have any proof in writing, so I have to qualify it by saying someone told me." (p.96)

David Alexander's authorized Roddenberry biography, Star Trek Creator, discusses the episode without mentioning it by title, though Alexander spends a few pages indulging in some character assassination of Gerrold's writing career and involvement in Star Trek. He doesn't mention the role played by Roddenberry's lawyer, Leonard Maizlish. He does quote Next Generation staffer Bob Lewin conjecturing that Roddenberry might never have actually read the script because Roddenberry told Gerrold he loved it and a few days later said he hated it. Alexander also quotes Roddenberry to the effect that the script presented the gay characters as old-fashioned, closeted caricatures that simply wouldn't exist in the tolerant 24th century. Anyone who's actually read the script might take issue with that characterization of the script and its portrayal of the gay characters. I certainly would..

Joel Engel's unauthorized Roddenberry biography, Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, which has been criticized by some for being too harshly critical, sheds some light on the situation. "Roddenberry's abrupt change of opinion remained a mystery for only a few hours, until he handed [Herb] Wright his notes on the script and, mistakenly, Maizlish's as well. Wright gave them to Gerrold and somewhat ominously suggested he read both. They were virtually identical, which meant that those written by Maizlish were the source material: His comments were intended for Roddenberry's eyes only." (p.230) Wright was assigned the task of rewriting the script. He was swamped with work, so when Gerrold offered to do another rewrite himself, Wright agreed. Gerrold went to Roddenberry, who said that if it was okay with Wright, it was fine by him. When Gerrold got back to Wright's office, Wright was on the phone. After hanging up he told Gerrold that Roddenberry had called as soon as Gerrold left his office, telling Wright not to let Gerrold do the rewrite. Not too long afterward, Maizlish called Wright to reinforce Roddenberry's message. (p.248-249) It's not entirely clear whether the possibly biased Gerrold or the more objective Wright was the source for this anecdote, but as presented in the book, it appears that Wright was the source, as Maizlish's phone call is said to have come after Gerrold left. Wright is listed as one of the sources for the book.

Like almost everyone else who worked on The Next Generation in its early days, Gerrold left in a less than amicable mood. His experiences led to a lawsuit filed with the Writers' Guild. Put simply, Maizlish's role in vetting stories was illegal. It wasn't until after Roddenberry was too ill to run the show that the rapid turnover of writers finally slowed to a trickle. Gerrold was long gone by then, though, developing a TV series of his own that was loosely based on Yesterday's Children. When that fell through, he adapted his pilot into the novel Voyage of the Star Wolf. "Blood and Fire" was just history now.

The story is fairly straightforward: the Enterprise encounters a starship that's adrift in space. The boarding party, sent over to find survivors, is infected by a strange phenomenon that turns out to be the deadly Regulan bloodworm. Among the survivors on the ship are the scientist who genetically modified the bloodworm to be more dangerous and the military man who wants to use it as a preemptive strike against the mysterious new threat near Federation space, the Ferengi. (This was written well before the producers realized that the Ferengi worked better as comic relief than as serious threat.) Crusher finds a treatment for the infected and a way to reverse the engineering done to the bloodworms, not only rendering them harmless but revealing them to be part of the life cycle of a beautiful alien lifeform thought to be mythical. Before the happy ending, though, several people die horrible deaths. It would probably have been one of the highlights of The Next Generation's generally disappointing first season, had it been filmed.

Voyage of the Star Wolf

Bantam Voyage of the Star Wolf cover Voyage of the Star Wolf is not set in the same universe as Yesterday's Children/Starhunt. Not exactly, anyway. Both have a driven starship officer named Jonathan T. Korie. But he's not quite the same person. The first Korie's alpha status and psychonomic training are absent this time around. But he's not entirely different, either: in both books, Korie goes through a very driven phase to get what he's after; he find himself thrust into an ambiguous command situation because of problems with his captain; he lies to the crew to do what needs to be done.

Nor does the universe seem to be the same, though we learn so little about it in the first book it's hard to say for certain. This book has no warp drive and no phasers, and ships don't have USS designations. The propulsion system is called hyperstate. Engineer Leen appears in both books, but the crew in general is very different. There are women, there's more racial diversity, and there are altered humans called Quillas who share a telepathic "massmind." There's also an artificial intelligence named HARLIE. (One of Gerrold's early novels, rewritten once or twice in recent years, was When HARLIE Was One.)

Another big difference: the enemy is identified this time. They're the Morthans, as in More Than Human. Though their ancestors were human, they have been so drastically altered by genetic engineering that they no longer see themselves as being human -- or able to coexist with humans. There may also be aliens in this universe; there's one passing reference to the Chtorr, the alien villains of another series of books by Gerrold.

Like so many of Gerrold's books, this one has references to people and things from outside of the book's fictional universe. Character names, for example: the late Mike Hodel, who hosted a science fiction radio show called Hour 25, has a character named after him in this and the following books. There's also a character named after DC Fontana, with whom Gerrold worked on Star Trek. Some SF fan slang also appears: Ghu, for God, and gafiate, for get away from it all. There's also what looks like an intentional reference to Star Trek, when a character says, "For some reason, I have the feeling that this is not going to be a happy enterprise."

As for the story itself, it's another suspense driven story, with three main parts. In the first, the LS-1187 is nearly destroyed in a Morthan attack and must make its way back to Stardock. Then there's the time at Stardock and the meeting with the ship HMS Sir James Burke to pick up a Morthan ambassador. The last part is the slow but furious battle between the humans and the Morthan, and the rematch with the Morthan ship that almost destroyed them. What makes things more interesting is the presence of a Morthan aboard Korie's ship after Stardock.

Gerrold's prose here has fewer expository lumps; exposition is handled much more smoothly than in The Galactic Whirlpool. There are no epigrams or aphorisms between chapters. There's also the first signs of a sexual element, as a few characters have sex. Most of it is strictly heterosexual, but one human male character finds himself disturbed by the realization that all the Quillas in the groupmind on the ship shared the sexual experience he had with a female Quilla... including a male Quilla named Lambda. (The Greek letter lambda has been a gay symbol since at least 1970.)

Overall, it's not a bad reboot for the adventures of Jonathan Korie.

The Middle of Nowhere

BenBella Middle of Nowhere cover Compared to the previous book, the second book of the Star Wolf trilogy reads as a bit clunky in spots. According to Gerrold's afterword, this is essentially a novelization of two scripts written for the unproduced Star Wolf TV series by Steve Boyett (author of Treks Not Taken) and Daniel Keys Moran. This probably explains the awkward structure of the novel, and may also explain why the book leaves a few questions (for example, about the Quillas) unanswered; those questions may have been meant to be answered later. The Middle of Nowhere has an awful lot of flashbacks and infodumps, and things don't really seem to start happening until halfway through the book. There's some character development for Korie, Brik (the Morthan security officer), and a couple of others, but sometimes that feels like it's an addition to the story rather than a part of it. Brik, as the odd man out aboard the ship, starts to seem like the traditional Star Trek alien regular: partly human, lacking a proper understanding of human emotions and behaviour, yet still feeling both logical and superior. He's almost a cross between Spock and Worf. Korie, meanwhile, here gets a backstory somewhat similar to his alter ego's backstory in Yesterday's Children. Instead of psychonomy, here it's zyne, a sort of zenlike philosophy. This is what gives Korie his mental edge over other humans in this version of Gerrold's fictional universe.

Gerrold spends as many pages on zyne exposition as he does on technobabble about the ship's drive. It's an old school SF style; I don't find myself reading many SF novels these days that explain how the FTL engines actually work. By now, most writers seem to take it for granted that there is an FTL drive that works, and leave it at that. If they could really conceive of how a faster than light drive should work they wouldn't be spending their time writing science fiction novels. The way Gerrold introduces zyne is also rather old-fashioned; Cory Doctorow presents a new philosophy/way of life in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but what it's about and how it works arises more organically out of the story (and is more fundamental to it) than is the case here.

And speaking of old-fashioned, here's a sentence that stopped me dead in my tracks: "For a moment she didn't look at all like an officer of the Fleet; she was just another grey-haired Negro grandmother with a recalcitrant child." I can understand that African-American might be less than ideal in which most of the human race no longer lives on Earth, much less in the United States of America,, and so maybe African-American might not fit. But it's very strange to read the word "Negro" in a book written after, say, the 1960s.

As usual, there are a number of tuckerisms and other references. The Meerson-Krikes orbital assembly lines are named after two writers possibly best known for contributing to the screenplay of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There's also an Admiral Coon, a tribute to Gene L. Coon, the Star Trek producer. Starships in Gerrold's universe have Feinberger modules and Okuda tubes, both also Star Trek references.

The story itself introduces a new viewpoint character, Robert Gatineau, a new member of the crew, and through his exploration of the ship we get a lot of exposition about who everyone is, what they do, how a starship of this type works, and what kind of stunts are pulled on naive new crew members. There's some humor but the story takes a long time to get moving. When it finally does, it's almost a retread of the last third of the previous book, as the crew try to find the Morthan imp that's sabotaging the ship.

Blood and Fire: The Novel

Blood and Fire cover Blood and Fire is a return to form, a more tightly focused and suspenseful novel. It's also much more closely tied to the Star Trek universe than its predecessors. It's based on the unproduced Next Generation episode discussed above, and follows the script very closely. It expands on it, of course, being longer and having the space to add more subplots and complications, but there are no significant changes. The only scene from the episode that's completely missing from the book is one in which Picard talks with Wesley Crusher about the dangerous situation Beverly Crusher is involved in. Otherwise, it's pretty much all there; many lines of dialogue are reused with little or no change.

But it's not just a Star Trek story with the names changed. It's also, in this form, a barbed commentary on Star Trek, especially on Gerrold's experiences working on The Next Generation. In the novel, the starship infected by the Regulan bloodworm (a Trek term first used by Gerrold in "The Trouble With Tribbles") is called the Norway. The Norway Corporation was the name of Gene Roddenberry's production company. There are also mentions of tribbles and of characters with the names of people associated with Star Trek in the real world: graphic artist Michael Okuda and novelists Diane Duane and Peter Morwood. There's even a reference to the "Big E," the flagship of the fleet.

Starships in Gerrold's universe have HARLIE-model artificial intelligences. A few have the more dangerous and unstable LENNIE models.

'The LENNIE units are particularly nasty; they have a higher incidence of psychotic behavior than any other intelligence engine.... The LENNIE units are the only Intelligence Engines specifically designed to lie.... They're process-oriented to a degree that you or I would call obsessive; they're greedy, selfish, uncaring, and if such a thing were truly possible in an intelligence engine, also thoughtless. The feelings and concerns of other beings -- even their own crews -- are irrelevant to LENNIEs.... LENNIEs are intended for institutional use, not starships. They're designed to be soul-sucking lawyers." (p.71-72)

Can there be any doubt that LENNIEs were inspired by Gene Roddenberry's lawyer, the late Leonard Maizlish? Back in 1994, when Maizlish died, Gerrold posted about it on CompuServe, commenting that Maizlish was an unpleasant and unethical person who violated Guild rules and was responsible for a number of people leaving the show. He also mentioned that he knew no one who was sorry to hear about Maizlish's death. The book has another parting shot at him, a mention in passing of "... parasites from Maizlish; it's a planet orbiting a bloated dead star." (p.147) If it seems a bit harsh to take potshots like that at someone who's dead, consider this: in an article at Salon.com, Gerrold says, "To my face, [Maizlish] called me 'an AIDS-infected cocksucker. A fucking faggot.'"

Blood and Fire may well be the strongest book of the Star Wolf trilogy. There are fewer infodumps and the book is relentlessly plot-driven. Though Gerrold indulges himself somewhat with the LENNIE AI, the book is tight, concise, and surprisingly short. It isn't what a third book in a trilogy usually is. it doesn't wrap up the Morthan war. It doesn't wrap up all the ongoing character development and subplots. It isn't necessary to have read the preceding books to understand and enjoy this novel.

Gerrold's afterword is quite informative. After leaving The Next Generation, he was hired to create a new science fiction TV series. Drawing on Yesterday's Children for inspiration, he decided to use Jonathan Korie as the main character in a series of stories that would basically be World War II in space. At one point Gerrold wanted to begin the pilot episode with an introduction set aboard a nice, big, clean starship called the Endeavor as it headed for a rendezvous with another ship. Twenty minutes into the show the Endeavor would explode and the small, dingy Star Wolf would show up for the rendezvous, and the viewer would discover that the Star Wolf was actually the show's setting. It was a bait and switch to show that this was definitely not going to be a Star Trek retread. It's ironic, then, that the Star Wolf books have had so many connections to Star Trek.

For information on ordering the script of "Blood and Fire" and the Star Wolf trilogy, see David Gerrold's official website, www.gerrold.com.